VICENZA, Italy- The Italian, American and NATO flags were hoisted for the first time ever at Caserma Del Din March 1 in Vicenza, Italy.
"Today is a great day for the Vicenza Military Community, for the Italian Army and the U.S. Army," said Col. David Buckingham, Vicenza Garrison commander, during a ceremony attended by Italian and American military authorities.
"It was a privilege to stand beside Italian Maj. Gen. Enrico Pino, and for the first time to raise the Italian flag, the United States flag and the NATO flag over Caserma Del Din," Buckingham said.
"It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to be here today, along with representatives of the U.S. Army, our friends and allies, for the first flag-raising ceremony at the new Caserma Del Din. This is the tangible result of an endeavor for which we can all be proud," said Maj. Gen. Enrico Pino, Italian Army commander for the Veneto region.
As chairman of the Veneto construction mixed commission (Co.Mi.Pa.) since taking command in 2006, Pino supported the project from the very beginning. Aware of the reorganization of the U.S. Army's footprint in Europe, he chaired the commission whose works, he said, were particularly challenging because of the difficulties inherent in the approval and construction processes of a new military installation.
"I can attest that every issue was always dealt with in a constructive approach until the final, positive outcome," Pino said.
The garrison commander said the flag-raising ceremony symbolized the security transition for the base. Responsibility for safety and security has now transitioned from the construction contractor to the Italian Army, which has consigned Caserma Del Din to the Vicenza garrison to operate.
"This is the first time the flags have flown over the new base," Buckingham said. "There will be an official opening ceremony in July when construction is complete and the Soldiers arrive."
The arrival of new Soldiers in Vicenza can only have positive effects for the city and the local community, Pino said. Along with a positive economic impact, the people of the Vicenza area will benefit from the influx of "young people and new families that bear those values distinctive of one of the greatest democracies of the western world. I believe these young American Soldiers must be considered welcome in Vicenza and in Veneto," he said.
Pino said that as chair of the Co.Mi.Pa., he had observed a strong commitment on the part of the U.S. command to be good stewards of local natural resources by promoting the sustainable features that make Del Din one of the greenest, most modern installations in Europe. Design and build decisions were made throughout the construction process to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment, he said.
"The project, completed on time, is an example of efficiency and rationality and is a model for our Italian military construction projects. I expect that from now on, and especially for new buildings, we will have to take into account the sustainable parameters adopted here at Caserma Del Din," Pino said.
USAG Vicenza Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Council said that "today's flag raising symbolizes the joint effort of our Italian partners and Americans to open up this base and to welcome in the Soldiers who will be occupying these buildings. It is very important because it helps the community and helps strengthen the already strong relationship between the Italian population here in Vicenza and our Soldiers."
"It really is a big day here today. It is another important step in turning over this base," said Cmdr. Andrew Hascall, the Navy resident officer in charge of construction.
"I am proud to be here and see this become a reality. I am even prouder to represent the Naval Facilities Engineering Command employees who have worked so hard over the years to accomplish this feat," he said.
The $307 million design-build contract for the Del Din multi-facility complex was awarded in 2008. The first of 31 buildings that make up the installation was turned over to the Army Feb. 22. Construction is slated to be complete in the weeks ahead.
"Most of all, my sincerest gratitude goes to the staff I work with here in Vicenza. There's never been a finer team; they have been the real story behind this success," Hascall said.